Washington: Researchers have found that spanking was far more common than parents admit, that children were hit for trivial misdeeds and that children then misbehaved within 10 minutes of being punished.
The real-time audio interactions revealed that parents were not always calm, as the guidelines recommend, but instead were often angry when they spanked or hit their child; they didn’t spank as a last resort; and they gave spankings for minor infractions, not just serious misbehavior. And while many spanking advocates recommend hitting children no more than twice, parents in the audio recordings were slapping and hitting their children more often.
George Holden, who is lead author on the study and a parenting and child development expert at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, said from the audio, they heard parents hitting their children for the most extraordinarily mundane offenses, typically violations of social conventions.
He said that corporal punishment wasn’t being used as a last resort and on average, parents hit or spanked just half a minute after the conflict began.
The unique recordings captured parent and child interactions in 33 families over the course of four to six evenings. Parents volunteered to wear the recorders; most were mothers who were home with their children after a day’s work. The recordings captured 41 instances of corporal punishment, mainly during everyday activities such as fixing supper and bathing children.
The researchers also found that the rate of corporal punishment exceeded estimates in other studies, which relied on parents self-reporting. Those studies found that American parents of a 2-year-old typically report they spank or slap about 18 times a year.